Pan is not in danger; the steelbands are! So said Pan Trinbago executive Marie Diane Dupre, – who , by the way, insists that her name is spelt using only lower case letters.
According to the San Fernando based firebrand , the steelband has become Carnival’s side hustle for those seeking fast money.
“(Pannists) run from band to band collecting dollars without a sense of allegiance.”
From since she became aware of herself dupre pan all around her. Born in Port-of-Spain, she moved to San Fernando in 1996 and recalled that Invaders was the first band she was exposed to because her nurse was involved with the band.
Her parents were very “culture conscious” and often whisked the young dupre off to pan yards and calypso tents at a young age.
“My two brothers also were pannists in Dixie Stars and Dixieland. One of my brothers is the captain of Harvard Harps and still plays pan.”
Unlike her brothers, dupre was not allowed to play pan as a girl; but as an adult she cherishes the gift of a tenor pan she received from Bertrand “Birch” Kelman which, she said, she dusts daily and try to play the National Anthem.
dupre’s involvement with Desperadoes began in 1956 since her parents were friends with the late pan history maker Rudolph Charles. In fact, dupre’s entrance into steelband administration was born out of her involvement with Desperadoes since she was asked to attend an AGM of the Northern Region of Pan Trinbago by the pannists. She was elected Treasurer of the Region that year and served two terms.
“I also served twice as an officer in Desperadoes as a trustee and treasurer. Last year dupre was elected Secretary of the South Central Region of Pan Trinbago. She has contributed a lot to the steelband movement over the years and was instrumental in convincing George Duncan of Renegades, to start a J’Ouvert Bomb Competition. This year is 12 years since the competition started.
“My passion for the steel pan and the music it produces and calypso music was encouraged by my parents and my involvement with bands and ultimately the organization is based on my belief that our culture is the driving force that can save my country.”
dupre added that whenever she gets to attend pan events locally and around the world, she is always encouraged by the peace and love that exists among those in the fraternity.
“The swaying bodies, the hugs and kisses given by and to people whose names I do not know but whose faces are familiar, is what keeps me focused, hopeful and happy.”
As the appreciation for the pan continues to grow overseas, dupre couldn’t help but quote Black Stalin to speak of the land of the steelpan’s birth : “the steel pan gone and the pan man stay”.
“Only in Trinidad and Tobago is the pan not fully accepted not only by citizens but by the pannists as well. Remember what Merchant sang many years ago “Pan in danger”?
To further make her point, dupre said at Government functions, foreign embassies at the Independence Day Parade and even Republic Day, pans are almost non-existent.
Even pan in schools are borrowed, according to her.
“There are a few bands, very few, that are registered businesses and operate in a professional manner for the benefit of the band and its players.”
In her humble opinion if Pan Trinbago spent less time putting on productions and more time in making steelpan a lucrative, organized business , more players would be treated with respect, rather than beggars.
“Members of bands need to be educated and be made aware of the need to become a legal entity.”
Bands, said dupre, should be encouraged to come together and produce the items they use including flags, stick and banner.
“Use pan yards as daycare centres, homework centres too so that the community is involved.”